Evangelical Christian pastor cleared of claims he touched a 19-year-old girl’s thighs, breasts and buttocks and sucked her earlobes
- John Martin found guilty of indecent assault before conviction overturned
- The judge was concerned about the woman’s evidence
An evangelical minister has overturned his conviction for groping a woman on appeal after a judge said he was concerned about the woman’s evidence and her claims that she had “repressed memories.”
John McMartin was found guilty of indecently assaulting a 19-year-old woman at his Pleasure Point home in southwest Sydney earlier this year before his conviction was overturned this week by NSW District Court.
The founder of the Liverpool-based Pentecostal Inspire Church was given a 16-month suspended prison sentence to serve under an intensive injunction.
Mr McMartin appeared for an appeals hearing earlier this week and was successful in overturning his conviction.
Mr McMartin has consistently denied allegations that he touched the woman’s breasts, thighs and buttocks and sucked on her earlobes.
He pleaded not guilty at a local court hearing and denied sexually touching the woman.
In a judgment published Friday, District Court Judge Andrew Scotting ruled that there were ‘critical inconsistencies’ in the plaintiff’s evidence and that there was reasonable doubt about Mr McMartin’s guilt.
John McMartin has been cleared of allegations that he groped a 19-year-old woman
The court was told the incident took place at Mr McMartin’s Pleasure Point home in January 2013, and several days later the then 19-year-old woman lodged a complaint with a minister before submitting a written complaint to the Australian Christian Churches .
The court was previously told that the woman had accepted his offer of a massage before he touched her inappropriately, she alleged.
Mr McMartin’s lawyer, Phillip Strickland SC, had argued that the woman’s version of events had been altered by various statements made over many years.
The court was told that her complaint to the church was later withdrawn before a statement was made to the police seven years later.
Judge Scotting ruled that there was reasonable doubt about Mr. McMartin’s guilt.
He noted that Mr McMartin had consistently denied, participated in formal police questioning and testified in court when he was not required to do so.
John McMartin is seen with his wife. He had been found guilty of indecently assaulting a 19-year-old woman before the conviction was overturned
He also considered his “good character” as he was 67 years old, had no previous convictions, and had “led a life of faith and service to others.”
Judge Scotting also said Mr McMartin had a ‘forensic disadvantage’ due to the delay in filing the complaint and text messages and telephone records, which Mr McMartin said supported his version of events, had been lost.
The court was also told that the woman stated that she had ‘repressed’ some memories of the alleged incident that she later recalled.
“The complainant’s evidence of trying to forget what happened and having ‘repressed memories’ worries me about her evidence,” Judge Scotting said.
“I’m not sure if her evidence was a memory of the night’s events or a reconstruction of it through conversations with others.”
Mr Strickland argued that Magistrate Peter Thompson falsely made negative findings about Mr McMartin’s conduct, including talking about lawyers and flossing his teeth during the hearing.
The court heard the 67-year-old had no previous convictions and had ‘led a life of faith and service to others’
“The magistrate reasoned that the plaintiff’s conduct in court was at least one of the things that negatively affected his credit as a witness,” Judge Scotting said.
Mr. Strickland had argued that he was unaware that Mr. Thompson was about to make negative findings about Mr. McMartin’s creditworthiness based on his conduct and demeanor in court and that he had not been given the opportunity to comment on to file the case.
Judge Scotting also found that there were inconsistencies in the woman’s evidence, most notably her claim that Mr. McMartin called her the next morning to protest against her, which was inconsistent with notes from another minister.
“I have concluded that there is sufficient doubt as to the guilt of the Appellant … which means that the Appellant should be acquitted,” Judge Scotting ruled.